The new Tullamore distillery is beautiful. The outside has been done in an old style of stone and tall windows (and in 50 years will probably look old, but it's rather fresh, now), but the inside is very modern indeed: spartan, almost, until you see the rubbed copper of the stills.
Now...none of the whiskeys I'm reviewing here were made at the new distillery. Can't be: the distillery only opened last year. Tullamore's been without a distillery since the 1950s. Irish whiskey's had a really rough patch, but it's back up, and this beautiful (and large) new place is just one more piece of evidence of just how well it's doing. We were told that the Wm. Grant company made the decision to build the place here (just outside of Tullamore, where the old distillery was), even though the ground was not of the best for construction, because they realized that the Tullamore Distillery had to be in Tullamore. Good thinking, boys.
Where were they made? The blend, at Bushmills and Midleton. The single malts? It was confirmed, verbally, that they were both made at Bushmills. Moving forward, they'll be made here, but not for quite a while yet. Here's the stuff...waiting.
Tullamore Dew 12 Year Old Blended, 40%
Didn't have the standard bottling handy (must have drank it all), so we'll go with this. Like that one, this is a blend of malt, grain, and single pot still whiskeys (I remember tasting this one next to the 10 year old and thinking there wasn't enough difference to make a distinction. But it's been a while, so let's see.
Definitely Irish: the single pot still fruity grassy notes are coming through, with a warm note of stewed pear that just rings golden in the nose ("rings" and "golden", of course, being a sound and a color...in the organ of scent; just work with me, okay?). Oh, that's nice. The cereal notes are broad in the mouth, sweet and clean, and the fruit blends in, like a creamy hot breakfast. Fairly simple stuff -- I'd like some more wood character -- and just a touch of dry-oat pull at the end, but a nice glass. Does it rise above? Well, no. Mostly it's just nice.
Tullamore Dew 14 Year Old Single Malt, 41.3%
Both the 14 and the 18 are four-wood whiskeys, aged in bourbon casks, then finished in a combination of bourbon, Madeira, port, and Oloroso sherry casks, with the whiskeys then blended in varying proportions to create a harmonious product. We got details, and I'll add that in a future post, but for now...I'm realizing that this is the first time I'm tasting this "off the premises," in the distillery bar and conference area, a nicely set-up place equipped with distiller, blender, and brand ambassador. It's also the first time I'm tasting it healthy: I was sick as a dog on the trip, and stayed sick for a couple weeks afterward. So this is, in a way, my first time tasting these.
Nicely dark gold in color, with a slight shine of green. The nose is of flowers and mixed pastilles, and high notes of rhubarb, with a darker layer of wood and anise underneath. Now, there is the complexity I was not finding in the 12 year old, and it's not simply piled on, either. Warm cereal breadth rolls with dry fruit, flashes of light caramel, and an undulating floor of solid, firmly-edged wood. The anise is a suggestion; pegs in that wooden floor. The finish is soft, with the oak receding and the dry fruit lingering. Nowhere near as sweet as the blend; not a cereal-heavy malt, either. Bushmills knows it needs wood variety to give its light malt spirit something to work with as it ages; clearly Tullamore has learned the same lesson.
Tullamore Dew 18 Year Old Single Malt, 41.3%
|Distillery ambassador Jennifer Proctor demonstrates just|
how much of the 18 year old Suzanne Redmond and I drank...
and then went and had dinner. Normal night.
The nose is more elegant, more restrained; the 14 is almost puppy-eager in comparison. Everything blends together in the 18, even and balanced. The cereal notes are here, but so are clear port-rich tones, and that dry fruitiness, and wood like a cradle. The whiskey spreads rapidly in the mouth, floating and pooling. The sweet fire is fruity and rich, but framed by a solid oak press; it has depth, it most certainly has weight, but it also has a freshness, almost like cool water. Much goes on here, and doesn't stop, evolving right to the final wisp on the breath. What was likely a fairly simple malt has been nourished and nurtured to become a multi-faceted gem of a whiskey. Nothing is out of balance. Finishing this sample.
[Disclosure: Wm. Grant & Son paid for my trip, lodging, and meals...well, most of them. I got lunch and a surprising number of beers in Dublin before the official tour started. You can do a lot of damage in a short time if you're determined, and Dublin certainly has the opportunities!]